Those beautiful black and white ducks from the North have arrived ! Barrow’s and American ( Common) Goldeneye ducks showed up in many of our hunting areas this week. Characterized by their distinctive flight noise both species of “whistlers” make for great sport on the wing and handsome trophies for the taxidermist. Watching a flock of these birds drop into the decoys is something every waterfowler should enjoy.
Jewels of the Pacific Northwest, the harlequin duck is one of the most prized waterfowl species. A unique sea duck– the blue plumed harlequin combined with dramatic white stripes, spots and red flank feathers are a sight to behold. Wintering harlequin duck populations average approx. 10,000 birds in Salish waters thus wildlife managers and sea duck hunters are conservative with harvest rates. Here in Washington we have a unique opportunity as the only state within the lower 48 to hunt these birds with consistency. Local populations of wintering harlequin ducks on the Olympic Peninsula are the highest in the state and opportunities are very good for our hunters. Our guide services focus on each of our hunters taking a prime drake over the hand carved harlequin decoy rig on their hunts with us.
In between squalls this morning the boys spotted something peculiar as a migrating flock of robins pecked their way for bugs out on the house lawn. Mixed in with the other dozen or so birds was a truly “white” robin. Spare a few black markings on the wing tips and around the eyes it was a snow white bird. This would be the second leucistic bird of the year for us– Maybe it’s going to be another cold winter !
A crisp Fall morning out on the saltwater with our first hunter today. Joe tagged out on a primo drake harlequin just after first light so we decided to pull the rig and move to hunt the openwater for scoters. He took a nice surf scoter right off the bat and the first bufflehead drake of the season. A couple flocks of oldsquaw were buzzing the rig and just before the tide change he takes a second drake surf was sporting a bonus! Per the USFW report this surf scoter drake was banded in WA as a wintering bird in 2005.
The waterfowl season opened with a bang today as the boys and I set out to enjoy the family tradition of hunting local sea ducks. Unlike most of the puddlers that are still in a moult of brown feathers- the surf , whitewing and black scoters have migrated in with full breeding plumage. Well before shooting light we launched the tender boat then after a short run the crab pots were put down to soak while we set a rig of longlines with floating decoy “sleds” and custom painted scoter dekes near an offshore shoal. At the first crack of light a few young birds had already lit in the decoys and we knew it was going to be a good morning. More “scotes” followed and after getting some of that early season rusty shooting out of the way we all got some birds down including a triple from a flock of high flying whitewings that dumped in for a closer look. Back to the launch with a bucket of Dungeness crabs and a strap of sea ducks– what a great start to the season and only a glimpse of what’s to come.
The third weekend of September is always a fun one as in Washington State the game department allows youth hunters ( under 16 ) to get the first shot at gamebirds and waterfowl before the general openers in October. Luck would have it that my two boys were invited to a hosted youth hunt that Saturday with a couple other eager young hunters on a private grain field in the Sequim Valley. A foggy September dawn broke early as we hunkered in the well camo’d layout blinds waiting on early migrating mallards and geese. With guns a blazing these youths knocked down a few good birds and before the dust settled with temps warmed into the mid-70’s Elliott had his first Canada goose and the makings of a great stir fry dinner that night !
We always welcome every other August when the warm sun is out and droves of pink salmon, aka humpys arrive down the Strait and North Puget Sound on their way to spawn in central and south Sound rivers ( these salmon run every two years ). Averaging 5-11 lbs Humpys can put up quite the battle on a fly rod or a light spinning rod rigged with a buzz bomb lure. Today was no exception as my boy Elliott and I found consistent schools of 50 –100 fish breezing and jumping all along the East side of Whidbey Island and the shipping lanes. Continue reading →
Hosted a charter Saturday for local sea run cutthroat trout fishing around Port Townsend. Catch and release only, these fish are great sport on a 5-6 wt. fly rod. Employing a variety of clouser and streamer flies we found a good handful of eager biters in the 10-14 inch range with a few larger fish “smacking” a popper around for good measure. Sea run cutthroat trout are similar in habits to steelhead in that they are anadromous and move between the saltwater and estuaries feeding up on small baitfish until moving and up into fresh water rivers and creeks in fall to spawn in winter and early spring. Unlike salmon, once these fish spawn they will once again return to the saltwater. With the pink and coho salmon moving in as well right now, a late summer day spent fly fishing on our local saltwater bays can be a lot of fun.
The mini Halibut are on the bite! Summer Sole, Sanddab and Flounder. What these little scrappy fish lack in size and appearance they make up for in shear numbers and a great willingness to bite a hook. Summer is the height of our local sanddab fishery as these little guys move into shallower water to spawn, and the sandy bays around Port Townsend are a great place fish for them. These flatfish average a little over a pound or so up to the larger rock sole and starry flounder that can weigh several pounds or more. They are a great way to introduce young people to fishing and burn some time while the crab pots soak. Everyone enjoys a hot flounder bite and after we get a dozen or so good sized keepers in the boat its time to get out the fillet knife and cleaning board. A little trickier to cut than a normal fish but the end result is some of the best little white meat fillets around “fillet of sole”… Fried or baked it is delicate and delicious.
The people of Latin America have been making Ceviche from fish and shellfish for over 2000 years. It’s simply a concoction of fresh seafood marinated in lime, garlic, peppers and spices. What a great dish to serve in the summertime to beat the heat. This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite places on earth— Rancho Las Cruces in Southern Baja California. Either stacked on top of a crispy tortilla or served with chips it is certainly one of my favorites. A staple during fiesta hour. Continue reading →